Kildare surprised many observers by making it out of their group to the semi-finals in their first season back in Division 2, having only annexed the Division 4 crown in 2009 before taking the honours in Division 3 last term.They laid down a serious statement of intent under new manager Jim McMullen in the very first round, when they recorded a 13-point hammering of a Down unit that had ended their championship aspirations in 2012. That was followed up with head-turning wins over Cork and Tipperary before they completed their Group 1 campaign by losing to Kilkenny in a dead rubber, with both teams already having qualified for the last four.The All Whites were completely on top in the opening half of their semi-final against Waterford and led by seven points at half time, having kept their opponents to a solitary point.
The powerful half-back line of Angela Lyons, Carol Nolan and Orla Bambury proved a sturdy foundation, while Susie O’Carroll continued what she has been doing for the past decade by punishing fouls and making big scoring contributions from play as well.
Waterford were much more competitive after the resumption but with captain, Clodagh Flanagan and Siobhan Hurley to the fore, it was Kildare that advanced deservedly.
Limerick emerged from a very tough group that also included Waterford, Galway and Meath. They won their opening three games but a defeat to Waterford in a very low-scoring encounter left them facing the Tribeswomen in a winner-takes-all affair.
Influential skipper, Michelle Casey was a driving force as the Shannonsiders displayed their immense character to prevail by two points and advance to the last four. A hat-trick of goals by Mary O’Callaghan enabled them to account for Kilkenny, while Caoimhe Costello, Niamh Mulcahy and Rebecca Delee also had a major input in terms of scoring.Limerick will be favourites, given that they are operating at a higher championship tier than Kildare and have accounted for a Kilkenny team that beat Kildare. But the Lilywhites defeated a Waterford team that beat Limerick, so nobody will be taking them for granted.
Irish Daily Star Division Two, Kildare v Limerick, St.Brendan's Park, Birr, 3.30pm
Irish Daily Star League Division 3 final
Dublin v Laois, 3.30pm
Cusack Park, Mullingar
There were no real surprise from the semi-finals as the top two teams from the group games made it through to the final.
Having said that, there were a number of close affairs before Dublin and Laois crossed swords in the final round-robin tie. Yet both went into that clash with 100% records and it was Dublin that maintained their unblemished scorecard with seven points to spare in a very impressive performance.
That gave the Dubs a semi-final against Armagh. Seven points had separated them when they faced off in February but the margin was just three this time, although the Metropolitans still came out on top against their doughty opponents. Last year’s Division 4 champions had a greater spread of scores and that proved crucial in the end. Georgina Kelly is generally the primary source and she finished with five on this occasion but with five others also on target, Laois will know that they cannot concentrate solely on the Faughs Celtic sharpshooter.
Remarkably, Laois’ semi-final was also a repeat of a round 1 game. On that occasion, they cruised to a 15-point victory over Roscommon but were made to work much harder to come out on top with a place in the decider up for grabs.
As usual, Louise Mahony was deadly in attack, registering seven points, with three coming from play. Niamh Dollard was outstanding too and with a good representation of players from The Harps outfit that has performed so well at All-Ireland club level in recent years, they will be hoping to repeat their Division 3 success of 2010.
Irish Daily Star League Division 4 final
Carlow v Tyrone, 1.30pm
Cusack Park, Mullingar
This final represents a tremendous reward for the stellar work being done in the trenches of both these developing counties.
Ulster has continued to make joint strides as a province in recent years and Tyrone’s place in this final is another example of this.
Meanwhile, Carlow have been riding on a wave of euphoria fuelled by Myshall’s All-Ireland junior club camogie success, which showed that the county possessed the natural resources that would enable them to flourish on the national stage.They have been the dominant force in Division 4, completing the group with a flawless record that saw them concede just 11 points in three games, while scoring 5-39.
Their parsimonious defence made sure that there was no addition to the ‘against’ column after their semi-final against Kildare, while they upped their average ever so slightly at the other end of the field by scoring 3-11. Ciara Quirke, Eleanor Treacy and Kate Nolan did most of the damage.Tyrone won Division 4 three years ago but are rebuilding again and doing so to some effect. They showed their continued progression when improving on their six-point victory over Cavan in the last round of the group sphere to blitz their fellow Ulsterwomen in the semi-final.
Niamh McNulty, Maria Jordan and the speedy Julie Lagan all scored 1-1 and Aisling Corr slotted four points as the Red Hands advanced without any concerns by 3-10 to 1-4.
This improvement will be some comfort to them, as they lost by 15 points to Carlow in an earlier tie. Finals are a different beast though and while Carlow will be fancied to prevail, they will have noted Tyrone’s development and should not underestimate the challenge.